Monday, February 7, 2011

Mobile Monday - To App or Not to App that is the Question

In 2010 there was a mad rush to make branded Apps. And with the release of Android and Blackberry Markets there are a few hundred thousand Apps out there. The question is does making a Branded App make sense?

First let me discuss finding an App. Unless you advertise using Traditional Methods chances of your App being found and downloaded is slim. There are just too many! And such a small screen. And the Market is crowded! I found 20 Flashlight Apps for my Droid2!
Next question is why would I use your App? Most Apps get downloaded and then never used. I need value. I have downloaded since August about 40-50 Apps. I use only a few regularly:

MobiNews - Free Economist, NY Daily News, New Yorker, Guardian UK
New York Times - HootSuite - Twitter for Android
Gowalla/FourSquare - GPS Navigator -ESPN Score Center
BBC News -Double Twist (my music player) - Soundcloud (stream music)
Yelp - Huffington Post - Skyfire Browser - and a few games

Most others I barely use. But they are nice to have if needed. Like a currency converter, or Google Translate. And the Apps I do use as far as I know are not making money from me. Some pitch the annoying AdMob banner ads, but I haven't clicked on one or seen anything of interest since August. What if you spend money to make an App that is never used or benefits your Brand or Business long term? Why waste the money!

As you can see each screen can only hold a few Apps. So if you are a heavy App user screen space is limited. So why an App? What will I get from your App that will 1] want me to use it regularly and 2] benefit your Brand or Business in a way to make you or save you money?

I recently blogged about App integration and how not doing so hurts you. LINK 
This costs money. But it can cost you more money not doing this. But I can see the HuffPost or New York Times willing to give me some free content just so I do not seek elsewhere and maybe find someone I wind up liking better. 

The small screen is an inhibitor for shopping:

You won't get a view of 10's or 20's of products at once. You will get 3-5. (Just like the App Stores). And search can be clumsy. So this is an area that ease of use is critical. And of course you have to format your store front for mobile. If you have the resources to do this it can be a big pay off. Amazon has sold well over $1 billion in product via mobile. I know Pizza Hut and Dominoes have well regarded Apps to order Pizza.

The question is are you capturing sales you would never have gotten? Are sales just migrating like the Pizza Apps seem to be doing? Is this lowering costs? All these things have to be taken into account to make the proper decision.

In summary:

1] Do you have the money to create an App?
2] Are you ready to promote it off Mobile (in your store, online, traditional)

3] Are you willing to ensure it is a seamless experience including how it integrates with other Apps or Software? 

3] What is the benefit for the consumer to want to use it?

4] What is the benefit to your Brand or Business?

The worst decision is to create an App just because you want to have an App or feel it's important to be seen as a company that has an App with no Strategic, Financial, or Customer Service benefit for you or your customers! 

And if it is your Agency pushing this ask them why? Besides giving them a reason to make more in Billings!


  1. Hey Howie,
    Again, maybe it's my age...or my eyesight, but the most I do on phone is Quick Search or email links to myself that I read later on desktop.
    I have used iPad, which if there were a non-nerdy way of carrying it, may be my ideal device:)
    When this gains universal (!) acceptance, Apps will become more important to businesses, methinks.
    Will wait for next incarnation before buying.
    You mind yourself in that snow, my man.

  2. HAHA! Hey Pat love that you lurk here!
    I agree with the Tablets but curious if they will be App centric or full blown computers down the road.

    During the Mobile Summit last week one of the presenters stated they would never bring their IPad into a Best Buy but they will have their phone. Since the Tablet is a Hybrid device I have focused initially on Phone sized. But I do plan on some Tablet only posts since that is the future of video in my opinion.